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Interview with Olin Perritt, September 13, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Olin Perritt, September 13, 2006
September 13, 2006
In this interview, retired radiologist Dr. Olin Perritt discusses how his love of aviation has influenced his life, and includes a detailed and informative account of his 1941-1946 career in the Air Force.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Perritt, Olin Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 9/13/2006 Series: SENC Health Services Length 120 minutes

(crew talk)

Q: Today is September the 13th, 2006, I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell from the Randall Library Special Collections, continuing our oral history interviews, and today we are back with Dr. Olin Perritt and we are going to talk about his aviation interests and experience. Thank you again for talking to us and if we could pick up where we left off and just kinda start and elaborate, how did you become interested in aviation?

Olin Perritt: I had a next door neighbor, a teenage boy when I was about 7 or 8 years old and he was very good at model making and he talked me into carving with a knife a model airplane. This was before the days of making models that could fly, it was what was called a solid model that you set on a table and I think that's probably what got me started and it wasn't long after that when I found out there was a local store that sold models. And I would buy a kit and make it and use this, what we called Japanese tissue paper that you shrunk with water to cover the framework and it had propellers that worked with rubber bands and I would fly these out in the yard and sometimes the bigger ones I'd take em over to the school grounds and when I got tired of em, usually when I was building another one and the old one I got tired of, my friends and I would put a firecracker in em and we would wind up the rubber band and then light the firecracker and let em go and let em blow up in the air. But I started building models.

Q: But when you say models, tell me about how big they are, what the scale is.

Olin Perritt: Well I think the first one probably had an 8 or 10 inch wing spread, this was a solid model carved. Later one the ones that I flew with the rubber bands were two or three feet wing spread.

Q: Well they're pretty big then to get em to fly; I mean the rubber bands would offer enough power to fly them?

Olin Perritt: Well, you have to understand the airplane models are very similar in all respects to real airplanes; it's not how big they are or how small they are, it's all relative, you know, 747 Boeing or a little plane like I'm flying now, it has to do with horsepower and weight and configurations of the plane. But anyway, I guess I was about 5 or 6 years into model making when my family moved from Tarboro to Rocky Mount and I got in with some boys there my age in high school that also were interested in model building. But I changed very quickly about the first or second year in high school and back in my days high school started in 8th grade, we just had one high school, we had no middle school or junior high, it was all one high school. And I started riding my bicycle out to the local airport, mainly on Saturdays when I was outta school and pretty soon I started helping the mechanics recover real airplanes and brushing on this dope mixture that shrunk the fabric and then I would go out on Sunday mornings after church and help 'em gas up the planes and then on the Sunday afternoon later I would circulate through the crowd of the parked cars and sell tickets for airplane rides. I didn't make any money but I got to get airplane rides free and I started using what little money I could make delivering newspapers and other chores to taking flying lessons.

Q: Which you said you started at age 14?

Olin Perritt: Fourteen, yes ma'am, and I had every desire to go into aviation hopefully as a career. Well they wouldn't let you solo in those days until your 16th birthday so on my 16th birthday I soloed. I think I told you this.

Q: You told me this, but tell us what kind of plane you were in when you soloed.

Olin Perritt: Well I was flying in those days mostly Piper Cubs and Taylor Cubs and the Ronkers [ph], what you call light planes, puddle jumpers, whatever you like. But they were all fabric covered tubes, but it's amazing how many pilots even of my age now had learned to fly on Piper Cubs. They were yellow that was the standard color, it's like Henry Ford used to say about his Model Ts, you can have any color you want as long it's black, well the same way with Mr. Piper, you could have any color you want as long as it's yellow. That particular yellow has for many years been called Cub yellow.

Q: Was this a friend's plane or did it belong to the airport?

Olin Perritt: These were rental planes yes, the same plane that I took my flight instruction in, that I soloed in and once you solo, then you get a student certificate and this enables you to fly by yourself. It's a strange thing, most pilots on that first solo had their shirt tails cut, it was tradition from years and years, I guess since the World War I. Somehow or other I escaped having my shirt tail cut.

Q: Was this a little ceremony or something?

Olin Perritt: Oh yes, you know, the way that usually worked, it came kinda as a surprise, you were out taking a flight instruction course and that your instructor would say "Let's go in and land" and maybe you're landing, make two or three landings and then he'd say, "Okay, taxi over towards the hangar and don't shut it down," and he climbs out and he says, "Okay, you're on your own, now I want you to make 3 landings, good landings, and taxi back up." Well, here you've been flying in my case because I couldn't fly very often and didn't have the money and all of sudden, you know, you're taking off right by yourself, it's a wonderful feeling.

Q: Is it?

Olin Perritt: Yeah. The only thing that I've ever done in aviation that gave me more pleasure was the first flight of home builds and everyone it's still a thrill as well as the one I'm building now. When I have it finished and ready to fly, if I'm not too old by then, of course my son might fly it too. One of the home builds I built, he did fly it the first.

Q: Well, after you did that first solo, then you were able to fly whenever you got the money together?

Olin Perritt: That's true, and you continue as a rule to occasionally have dual instruction where you fly with your instructor and you learn more advanced procedures and more advanced maneuvers and then you having him check you out that you are still flying the way he taught you and you work towards hours in time to take the flight exam and get a private license.

Q: So there was a written test too?

Olin Perritt: Yes, I never did do that; I went in the military instead. Two weeks after graduation from high school I had, I think I told you before, I had planned on hopefully going to state college in aeronautical engineering course but didn't have the money and there was no scholarships in those days and I was just a little country boy that didn't know anything about the bit metropolis like Raleigh, I'd gotten lost. So storm clouds were on the horizon, they had started the draft in the fall of 1940 and I finished up in '41 in June and two weeks later I volunteered for the US Army Air Corp where I was hoping to be trained as aviator in the military.

Q: What was the criteria to meet their selection process?

Olin Perritt: Well in a nutshell in those days the US Army Air Corp trained what they call flying cadets and a flying cadet applicant had to have at least two years of college and I'd forgotten exactly the age, I think you might have had to be 20, because in those days they didn't commission you under 21.

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: No, well to make a long story short, they saw the need in the very need future of many, many pilots, so they started a program that was called "Flying Sergeants" and this you could get in with a high school diploma at 18 okay and that is mainly the reason that volunteered in the US Army Air Corp to go through the "Flying Sergeants" program. Well when I went in, in June of '41 they classified me as a musician, I think I told you I'd played in the high school band. So I played in the Post Band and the Drum and Bugle Corp and this stuff and in December six months later of course was Pearl Harbor and almost immediately the "Flying Sergeants" program which I had not gotten into yet was abandoned and they changed the Flying Cadet Program to an Aviation Cadet Program that did not require the college and you could enter at 18. It superseded the "Flying Sergeants" the "Flying Sergeants' program when you graduated you were made a Sergeant, that's why they called it the "Flying Sergeants". The Aviation Flying Cadet Program when you graduated, you were made a Second Lieutenant, you were commissioned. You were commissioned by an act of Congress as a officer and a gentleman, that's what it read on my commission. By act of congress you are an officer and a gentleman, I've tried to be a gentleman ever since. But anyway the aviation program at that time had I mean full speed ahead and fields were being opened, they had more training than they could handle in the military so they contracted with a lot of civilian flying schools, especially the early primary flight training, right off the beginning. I went to Contract School in Lakeland, Florida, it was called Lakeland School of Aeronautics and the only military field of people on the field were the Director of the flying and they did have military mechanics, but all the instructors were civilians.

Q: But the goal of this was to get more pilots in action?

Olin Perritt: Yes absolutely, it just seems like starting in the first of 1942 they're just by leaps and bounds, airmen were being trained in tremendous volumes all over the country. The program actually consisted not only pilots but bombardiers and navigators, there was 3 phases.

Q: So did you personally get to select pilot or did you have to take a test or what was that?

Olin Perritt: Well the first thing we did base wise we were sent to Nashville, Tennessee which was a classification run and you were given not only a very extensive medical exams but psychological testing, it went for about 5 days and the lists came out as to where you were going and what you were gonna be trained as. Many of the fellows that I went to Nashville with were greatly disappointed because they were programmed for bombardier or navigator. The saying went at that time and I don't know of any other reason but they said that all the papers for each applicant were stacked on the desk of the head man and they opened window and turned on a big flow fan and all the papers that flew out the window went to navigator school and all those that went on the floor went to bombardier and those that stayed on the table went to pilots training. Now that's about as ludicrous as you can imagine but what else could you say. I was one of the very few times in my military career that I felt like I really looked at.

Q: Do you think that your experience in having a solo pilot's license helped you?

Olin Perritt: I knew you were gonna ask that, I never told a soul I had been a pilot; I didn't want 'em to know. All the way through my flight training military, primary, basic and advanced I was the first or very close to the very first at solo the different type of planes and I think that's because of my previous flight training but I didn't tell them.

Q: You never told 'em?

Olin Perritt: No I didn't tell 'em. You know once you say something like that they might expect too much of you and our primary flight training, you know, were the old biplane Steermans.

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: Yeah.

Q: So that's what you trained in Lakeland?

Olin Perritt: This was at Lakeland, I flew the PT17 Steerman and then when we went to Shaw Field in Sumter we flew the BT13 and BT15, now this was a low wing all model, big radial 450 horsepower engine, over twice the horsepower as a Steerman and twice the speed and more complex. However it had a fixed gear and then when we went to advanced, we went into the North American AT6.

Q: Now where was that at?

Olin Perritt: This was at Spence Field, Moultrie Georgia and this had a big radial 650 horsepower which also had retractable landing gear and this particular airplane spent many, many years in the service and actually many of 'em were exported to South American countries as fighters. They mounted machine gun, we had a machine gun, we didn't use it often except for practice that was part of our training.

Q: Does that the AT stand for attack?

Olin Perritt: No advanced training.

Q: Advanced training.

Olin Perritt: PT was primary training, BT was basic training. Now they dropped the AT designation some years after the war was over and instead of an AT6, it was called a T6.

Q: Training, okay got it.

Olin Perritt: And the reason is as strange as it might seem I thought my military training was pretty advanced, you know, step by step but some years after the war they started training you from the very first flight in planes comparable to our advanced trainers. That's why they dropped the A. In fact some places they started training very quickly after the T6 in jets. Cessna came out with a T37 I think it was called, a side by side jet, they called it the "Tweety Bird" you know all these airplanes at nicknames. You know what the "Goony Bird" was? Well, the "Goony Bird" was a C47 which was a DC3 airline converted; I flew those on my last duty station.

Q: Whenever you finished at Moultrie, where did you go then?

Olin Perritt: That was another one of these unfortunate predicaments that I think I told you they sent me to instructor school at Randolph in San Antonio, Texas. I didn't wanna be an instructor, I wanted to go into combat; I'd had enough time flying to.

Q: Had you already gotten your wings?

Olin Perritt: Oh yeah.

Q: You get your wings where?

Olin Perritt: Yeah I got my wings at Moultrie that was advanced. I might be repeating myself, the cadets in advanced flight training your second 30 day time. You see every one of these facets from preflight right on up to graduation was divided into two segments, two months. Your first month you were under class and the second month you were upper class see and there was different format for your training. For instance when we got to Lakeland at the very beginning of primary flight training, see most of these guys had never been in an airplane. Then you're under classmen and the guys that are upper class the day before were under class see so they have a lot of privileges you don't have. Well we actually had this in preflight at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama; I just didn't mention that as under classmen, we were like dirt. We had to eat square meals; we had to sit on the edge of that, we had to stare straight ahead; we had to fall out for every formation ahead of everybody else. We had double time down the ramps and we had to do all kinda things to the upper classmen. But anyway this was training you to obey and almost without question and to take a ribbing and the mental attitude. But anyway one day you now an upper classmen, yesterday you were under classmen so now you can do to the other guy, it's not like hey, hazing. There's no physical contact but anyway. We had what we call a preference sheets and on this was printed out single engine fighter, which I put number one, twin engine fighter, the Lockheed P38 Lightening was just out, I put number two and then number three I think I put light tack bombardment and then four, heavy bombardment and five instructor no, underlined four times and the night before our graduation, we were really closing everything down and packing and the Commandant of Cadets showed up in our barracks and he said that the following cadets pack immediately, you will be taken from this stage at the post theater where we were graduating and given our commission and our wings. You will be marched to trucks to take you to Thomas Field, Georgia for direct railroad to San Antonio, Texas to CIS. I didn't know what CIS but it sounded like a dirty word, but it stood for Central Instructors School and General Arnold who was the head of the Army Air Corp had decided that he wanted more conformating in instructors and they were training instructors on the Gulf Coast, the West Coast and the South East and that's where I was. He wanted all the instructors to be trained at one place and then they went back to their places and gave the same type instruction to the students, it made good sense. But anyway at Randolph Field, you know, a lot of good movies were made there with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien and Devil Dogs of the Air, I can't remember most of those old black and white, I'd love to see some now. But Randolph Field was called West Point of the Air.

Q: West Point of the Air.

Olin Perritt: And I felt like I was very fortunate that I actually was based there but not because I was being trained as an instructor, I didn't know that. But anyway I was sent back to Spence Field.

Q: How long was your training at Randolph Field another two months?

Olin Perritt: I think it was about two months, it didn't take long, it wasn't as much teaching us to be instructors but to teach us to be the same type of instructors that are gonna be, you know, it was to learn their way.

Q: And then you were assigned to Spence Field?

Olin Perritt: I returned to Spence Field and I was at Spence from I guess June into the fall of '43 and at that time most of all of the basic flight training schools had British instructors, British men and the reason for that was that before we got into the war; most people didn't know this, most of our basic and advanced flight training schools were training nothing but British aviators including Craig Field where I was stationed when I was accepted into the flight training program, where I played in the band. All the cadets there were British; to this day I can't understand British people, even if I do turn my hearing aid up. But anyway they saw, I don't understand all about the political ramifications but they needed these instructors back home in England and other places where the British were flying, you know, they were all over the world, the sun never set on the British empire, isn't that the famous saying? Before Churchill day, but anyway they were sending most of these instructors back to England, the RAF and they suddenly had a tremendous need for basic training instructors and I at that time at Spence Field-- have you ever heard the term pink slip, wash out okay?

Q: Yeah.

Olin Perritt: In the training command if you had a student and he just wasn't doing right and you felt like he was a hazard to himself and others and you gave him a pink slip, you know, every student you flew with as instructor, every pilot you fill out slips on, well a pink slip was a bad ride and if you gave the same student as his instructor, you gave the same student two pink slips, you didn't fly with him anymore. I should say he didn't fly with you anymore but anyway, he wasn't totally washed out though, he first got a check ride with a Squadron Commander. If he didn't pass Squadron Commander he was gone; if the Squadron Commander thought he might have another chance, he kept him in the squadron but gave him another instructor. If a student had two instructors pink slip him out then he still had a chance to be checked out with the Director of Training, this was the guy and head of all these squadrons on that particular field and if he passed him he put him in another squadron, if he flunked then he was gone. But I never had but one student that pink slipped out and that was very unfortunate, he passed the Squadron Commander and was given to another instructor and he got killed that night on night flying.

Q: Oh no.

Olin Perritt: The biggest hazard that we had in training as I look back on it was night flying and the reason was that we had to fly many nights when there's no moon, no stars, overcast, dark, pitch dark and even to this day I recall and (inaudible) other pilots note, if you ever get in a situation where you got vertigo or you get spatial disorientated, you immediately take your eyes out of looking around trying to plan a horizon like you're going in (inaudible) night where there is no horizon, (inaudible) and go on instruments and that's the only way you're gonna save yourself, you go on instruments. So all of our students had hours in the Link Trainer, that's a simulator, it's called a Link Trainer after the man named Link that invented it and every flying school from primary through advance had Link trainings and you were required to have a certain number of hours, you learned a lot of basic procedures and that which was not using up gasoline and the risk of an airplane. But you also got a lot of aviation air instrument under what we call under the hood. The back seats in all these trainers were designed with a hood, it was a canvas that-- do you ever remember the caterpillar at the county fair?

Q: I'm not sure if I do but I know that.

Olin Perritt: You remember the caterpillar, don't you?

Q: I didn't go to the county fair.

Olin Perritt: This is at Rad that you went over these humps and it went around in a circle and, you know, you had your girlfriend in the seat and then after it went around for a few times, then this big canvas cover came over and covered the all thing and that's why you got (inaudible). I thought everybody had heard of the caterpillar, but it looked like a big caterpillar, maybe they don't make 'em anymore. I haven't been to our county fair in years. But anyway this hood went over your head and you were in the back seat. Now the instructor's in the front seat and he's observing other traffic and keeping you safe and also instructing. But you're flying that airplane strictly by instruments, you have no reference to the ground or the horizon and that's what got this fellow and you take off at night and once you've passed the boundary of the airport, certainly in Wilmington in certain areas were not over town but the other direction you go into a black hole, it's like the black hole in outer space, you're in that and suddenly you see no lights on the ground and on a dark night you don't see any horizon, the horizon's what separates the ground from the sky and if you got a horizon, you know, you can maneuver. But anyway the first thing you do is go on instruments and fly your plane by instruments until you can get to a certain area where you can see. Well anyway he took off and apparently got into what was called a grave yard spiral. Standard aircraft and a trainer type or even a fighter, you have to fly 'em, they're not as stable flying on their own if you turn loose the controls. This plane I fly in now, very short wing, stubby and fast and that's why I have an auto pilot. If I happen to be in the weather that's marginal and I need to check the map or to my GPS receiver or what have you, you can't put your head down in the cockpit too much because you'll crash to go off into a bank and then, you know, if you don't know what you're doing, you get into what's called a graveyard spiral and the more you try to come out of this, the tighter it gets.

Q: So that's the flat spiral where the plane is?

Olin Perritt: No, I don't wanna get into this too specific, but in order to try to straighten your plane up, the first thing that the student wants to do is to come back on the control stick to get your nose up. But if you're in a turn, a bank, all it does it tighten that turn and it gets tighter and tighter and all this time your airspeed's building up because your nose is down and you are turning in a tighter and tighter spiral and the term graveyard came because so many of 'em went into the ground and never recovered. But the answer and the things we taught as instructors you don't try to pull back on the stick, you level that airplane by getting the wings level, then you come back on the stick, then your nose will come up. But if you're in a bank and you keep coming back, you just tighten the spiral. Well, anyway, that's one night that was hazardous, I thought.

Q: So every time you're flying with these students you're kinda putting your life at hand, did you have any control if they lost control?

Olin Perritt: Oh yeah, see every training plane and every plane I've built except two because they were only single place, they didn't have any need for second-- have had dual controls. This plane I showed you pictures of, I have this controls in the pilot and then the copilot side or the passenger. Now I can take that stick out very quick, it has a quick disconnect but most of the time I'm flying with my son or somebody else or one of my grand kids, so I'm gonna let them fly the plane, that's no good if the stick's not in. But all of our training planes had dual controls and absolutely you wouldn't go up with a student unless you could take over control if he made a mistake. I heard of some instructors that would take the bolt out of the stick and reach across and (inaudible), I don't believe that-- used to use the fire extinguisher instead.

Q: You stayed in this training assignment for how long, did you say?

Olin Perritt: I was transferred from Spence Field to Bainbridge, Georgia in I think it was about October of '43 and I was there until I went into B51 in the spring of '44. So Bainbridge was one of these basic flight training schools that had sent all their British instructors back to the empire and we took over. Now don't get me wrong I think they were good instructors, in fact one of my instructors when I was in basic was a British. They held 'em over a lot of 'em stayed over once the British cadets graduated; they still kept the British instructors until they got enough of us to replace 'em.

Q: Well, how did you come by getting your assignment out of the instructor school?

Olin Perritt: I don't know to tell you the honest truth but I think that most of us that went to CIS, see this was temporary duty, this wasn't a permanent assignment, we were only there to get through this instructor school and it was not only flying but ground school, psychological implications of teaching and I think every one of us on this temporary duty from of these stations around the country went back to their original place. So my orders were already when I went to CIS and Randolph to go back to Spence in Moultrie, Georgia. I'm glad you asked that question, it never occurred to me otherwise because I was with a cadre of my group, I think of 12 or 14 of us in my graduating class were sent to instructors school. The rest of 'em of course went off to P47's and P40's and P38's, places I wanted to go. But, you know, in those years you did what you were told.

Q: It just seems like they put so much time and effort into training you to be an instructor that that would be a permanent assignment.

Olin Perritt: It almost was, I got out of the training command a long with many other instructors and I hate to use the term we had gotten caught in that predicament and we had to deal with what we had but we didn't like it. I trained an awful lot of cadets, instructors. You've got to understand that we had all around the world outfits, pilots, bombard crews, fighter squadrons and things were looking so great and the buildup of instructoring for pilots and navigators and bombardiers had gotten kinda over utilized and many of the instructors had gone up in rank and become Squadron Commanders and Directors of Training, all this, you know, over the last 3 years and they were all just as I was, hopeful that we might still have a chance to get into combat. That was the-- it's a medical term, the cynic unknown of a pilot was to get to combat. All the rest was incidental to combat as you may well know.

Q: You're just only, like, 21 years old here, aren't you?

Olin Perritt: Oh I was an old man, they called me Pappy; 21 was quite old.

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: When you talk about I went in at 18. But anyway Lieutenants, Captains, Majors were being given the chance to get out of the training command and go into transition training in whatever they gonna fly. Some were sent to B24, four engine bombers, some to B17s. In my case as one of the lucky things, I was sent to the fighter squadron. Some of this had to do with size, I might have mentioned this, I was small, I was about 5'9, probably weighed 135, 140 pounds soaking wet. I was just ideal for a fighter, but don't get me wrong, we had some guys in my outfit in combat who were 6'1, 6'2, they had a time getting in the airplane, had to get a big shoehorn to put 'em in. And there were some guys my size that actually went to B24's bombers but my different situations in the military, this was all the most fortuitous to me lucky, you know, and I was able to get into fighters and then of course when I got into combat that's a long story.

Q: What type of planes did you train on, you said the P38's?

Olin Perritt: Yes when I got out of training command I went to Hillsboro, Hillsboro was a suburb of Tampa, Florida, it's totally encompassed in Tampa but it was just off of Tampa about 5 or 6 miles and it was a single strip and it was a P51, North American P51 Mustang and these were the old Mustangs, A models and the Bs and the C models. These didn't have the bubble canopies, the sliding canopy, more like the Messerschmitt. This is an aside, do you know what the biggest hazard to the Messerschmitt 109 fighter pilots in Germany, the biggest hazard, broken arms.

Q: From the canopy?

Olin Perritt: Having his arm like this and the canopy must have weighed a half a ton and it'd break his arm in two places, the wind would catch it, you know. Well anyway we had something very similar in the A's and the B's and the C's and the D model we didn't get til I was in combat for a good while and they had the sliding canopy and this plane I'm flying now has got a canopy where it's just about right. But anyway I was in Hillsboro and I think I got about 60 or 70 hours in the P15 and then I went back to Tallahassee, down Mayberry Rep Dep, (Replacement Depot) and this is where they got smart. Instead of having Military Air Transport Command, the MATS which did a marvelous job in World War II flying supplies from US into all of our foreign places and they decided that each pilot that was going overseas, take his own stuff so when I boarded a C54 it was about midnight and in Miami on my way overseas, I not only had all my duffle bags and stuff but my parachute, my helmet, my goggles, everything except-- of course they didn't issue us rifles but I had rifles back in-- you know, this was fairly tough because you only have 2 arms, you know, and you try to slash stuff around your shoulders. Well we left about midnight and we landed just about dawn at Bermuda, now that flight nowadays would be about 2 hours, back then C54, you know, cruising a couple of hundred miles an hour and it's a big four engine transport and we landed and refueled, took off from there, the Azores and we landed there and that's where I joined the short snorter club.

Q: What is that?

Olin Perritt: You never heard of the short snorter club, well you're not a short snorter. First of all you had to have a dollar bill and you had to get two members of the short snorter club to sign you up. To be eligible you had to have flown across the ocean that was the only requirement. But the penalty was if ever you got caught somewhere in an officer's club and somebody said are you a short snorter and you admitted you were and you didn't have your short snorter's dollar bill with all these guys (inaudible) you had to stand for all the drinks. I've still got mine.

Q: Do you still carry it with you?

Olin Perritt: Well as a matter of fact I took that and for each country that I was in before I came home after the war was over, I taped on paper bills from the countries and my original one dollar bill was about 20 feet long rolled up. I can show it to you. I'm glad you're not a short snorter. I'm sure this has to do with the drinking fraternity "short snorter". But anyway we left the Azores and landed in Casablanca, you're familiar with Casablanca, Bogie and what's her name, I still cry every time I see that movie when she's saying goodbye, she is a beautiful girl. But we landed at the airfield and they put us on a big truck, military truck and went all the way through town to a hostel. In those days a hostel was a place where you were bunked; all the way across town and we were filthy, tired and sleepy, hungry. Well they fed us and gave us a chance to take a little nap and came right through, put your stuff together, immediately we were going right back to the airfield you had taken off. Anyway we got back to the airfield, now they had a C46 Curtis Commando, that's a big two engine transport and we flew all the way across North Africa from French Morocco, that's where Casablanca is into well we were Tripoli, you're familiar with Tripoli?

Q: Sure.

Olin Perritt: From the shores of Tripoli.

Q: Yeah.

Olin Perritt: Marine song. We landed at Aberdan, Persia; all this figured in the Middle East and stuff in more recent years. Persia's now Iran and as you know they are not an Arabic country. We went from there to Karachi, India. Now the weather was good and most of the time we were flying across North Africa and we followed the-- I don't know whose pipeline it was but the pipeline and a lot of this pipe was laid on in circuits like our Alaskan. Well we got into Karachi, KAB (Karachi Air Base) and we were put into a pilots replacement and during the time that we were in Karachi there was a small field on the other side of town called Landhi and each of us had to go through combat training at this particular auxiliary field, it was a two weeks course and here again the military was getting smart. They had most of the activity in China, were centered around the B29s, you know, a super fortress and they were based at Chintu in North China. They flew from there direct across all of North China to Japan and dropped their bombs and many of 'em didn't get back and some did but they might have had an engine out or they had some damage and if they were beyond a certain period of time they needed engines overhauled or engines replaced or something that they couldn't do in Chintu and like everything nowadays, you know, they would fly 'em all the way back to the United States for this service. So they'd land 'em at Karachi and fighter pilots in China that had done their hundred missions were on the way home, so they would also come into Karachi and they'd base 'em in this landed field and here we were coming out of the states with no combat training. So these guys before they could come home, they had to teach us all they had learned see and how did they get home, they got on a list and they worked to the top of the list and then came home on the B29s as passengers. Well this guy might get on the list and he might be 2 or 3 weeks before he works to the top of the list or he may get on the list today and tomorrow and enough planes come through he works all the way and goes home the next day. Anyway it was-- but they taught us so much of low altitude, so called rhubarb missions where we flew right on the mud flats around India. Biggest worry we had were bird strikes, the gulls would feed at low tide, seafood that was stranded in the mud. They say this went on at Wilmington at low tide. But anyway combat formations attack their stages and everything they could teach us. Well it seemed like at Karachi Air Base where I was based it was gonna be probably a month or more before I worked up to go over to Landhi for this pre combat training and I had been there at Karachi for maybe 5 or 6 days during which time we answered mail call and roll call at 9 o'clock in the morning and the rest of the day I was trying to learn some Japanese and playing bridge and trying to stay away from mosquitoes, there was a terrific outbreak of malaria and at that time a lot of the soldiers deliberately tried to contract malaria so they could come home and they stopped doing that. We were not allowed after dark to be out without sleeves down and buttoned, pants inside boots and repellent on our arms, neck, face and head, any exposed part of your body. We had outdoor theaters and they had some fairly good movies that came over, most of 'em were projected on the side of a building, that was our screen but one morning and I was walking across the compound and this jeep drove up and then were two captains in the jeep and the guy driving it, now he looked awful familiar and he says "I know you" then I says "I know you too." Well it so happened he was a classmate of mine in flying school and he had graduated with me but he didn't go to instructor's school, he went into combat. Well anyway he was over at this auxiliary field and they had just gotten two SBD bi bombers, the Douglas, that was a Navy designation, we call 'em the A24's and they had outfitted these two planes, this is a big 900 and something horsepower radial engine with the backseat which had been a gunnery position with a hood for instrument training and this fellow will remember, I hate to tell you this, his name was Charlie Gibson, same guy on the...

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: I wondered if this might be his son, I don't know he was a Yankee boy. But anyway he said "Where have you been all this time?" You know, here it is like.

Q: Three years later.

Olin Perritt: This is August and we had graduated the previous April a year ago, a year and a half probably. I said "I got stuck with training command" he says "Are you qualified to teach instruments?" I said "I sure have, for the last year I've taught instruments a half a day and aerobatics the other half a day." He said "Well you're just the man I'm looking for." He said "We need two instructors and you'll have separate quarters, you'll have a jeep at your disposal, you get to fly all day if you want to, you won't get into the program for your pre combat any soon, you'll still have to wait for your group." But he says "I'll guarantee you the food's better, the drinks at the bar are better" I said "I'm you're man." This is one of the few lucky things I got there. So I went over with the other guy was named John Lowin, I still correspond with him, he's in Florida and anyway. Oh no his other question was "Have you ever flown an A24?" "Sure, you wanna see my log book?" One had come through the training school, I guess I was at Bainbridge, Georgia and everything I could get my hands on I'd fly and it was parked by headquarters and the pilot, I don't know what it was doing there but I was always at headquarters putting my name on a voluntary list. If there's anybody wanted anything done separate from your regular work, I was the first one they'd call including the head of the local hospital, Major Beddingfield, he was the Chief Surgeon and he periodically had to fly to Matchwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, that was headquarters. He'd always ask me to be his pilot and I enjoyed that. But anyway I've got beyond the story.

Q: You were taken at teaching the instruments at Karachi.

Olin Perritt: Every student and I'm sorry these guys have all been captains, majors, they'd been instructors for a year or two back in the states but this is their first chance of getting into combat and they know we're going to China. Okay so when they're coming through to get this combat training from the guys from combat. They also had to renew their instrument rating and that's what I was there for. So each and every one of 'em would go up either with John Mobin or myself and we would put them through tests and if they couldn't do 'em then we had to start training 'em again and they got I think six hours, which you know, a guy that's been flying with instruments all over the country, he knows his stuff.

Q: How long did you do that?

Olin Perritt: Until my group came over, I would say 5 weeks, 4 or 5 weeks then which I killed a wildcat with-- a bobcat with a 45.

Q: Was it in a camp?

Olin Perritt: Yeah it was in the barracks and outside of the barracks area between where we'd bunked and the mess hall and the flying field was kinda desert with these little scrub trees, thorn bushes we call 'em. Well we were awakened several nights by this awful cry it sounded like a woman in childbirth, don't print that. But anyway I've heard that too. I got a flashlight and my Colt 45 which we all had and I went out and followed this bobcat into one of these bushes and they thought-- I don't know if it was a he or her was safe and I held that gun, 45 with a flashlight and shot it right the eyes and we never heard that screaming anymore. It was foraging for food left around the barracks, you know, trash cans and stuff.

(crew talk)

Q: I pick up on this second part of our talking to Dr. Perritt. Now you were saying that you were teaching people or rating their instrument qualifications. When did you finally get into your squadron, your combat?

Olin Perritt: Well when my group came over from the replacement pool to go through this re-combat training, I gave up the instructorship for the instruments that went through the combat training, and then orders were cut that sent us into Burma. We went into places I'd never heard of: Chadwa, which was in the Assam Valley. The Japanese had been in there early on but they had been pushed back, and my greatest recollection of Burma was that we got in that night and we got up the next morning, everything we had leather was greenish from mold and when we opened the door to our room, which all the rooms open to a porch, we couldn't see the edge of the porch for fog. The densest fog and I was hungry and I need to get to the dining room, you know. How am I going to find it? Well somebody in the next room says, "You see that rope?" He said, "You follow the rope and don't you leave that rope or you're going to get lost and they may never find you." We followed a rope to the dining hall. We were there just long enough to get transportation out into Kumming and when we landed in Kumming it was after dark and the two things that I remember the most vividly was that the trucks that pulled up beside the big transport to offload us and all of our paraphernalia couldn't believe it. They were burning charcoal. They had no gasoline for trucks. All them trucks burn charcoal which gave off a lot of smoke as you can imagine and carbon dioxide, monoxide, all the things you didn't want to breath. That was the first thing. Well they loaded us on the trucks and got us to the edge of the airfield and here we now unload from the trucks and we've got all of this stuff of ours, each one of us, and I kind of slowed for some reason and some of the guys, of course we've got to go up a hill, a distance of about two blocks, to the BOQ. You know what the BOQ was?

Q: Base Officer Quarters?

Olin Perritt: Bachelor Officers.

Q: Bachelor Officer Quarters.

Olin Perritt: No women allowed. Well anyway, I was one of the last to leave where the truck dumped us and I started walking and pretty soon I came and about three guys and they were sitting on their bags and I get about another half a block and there's a half a dozen guys and they're sitting on their bags and about this time I'm so short of breath that I just can't go any further so I stop and set on my bags. We didn't find out until the next day that we were close to 11,000 feet above sea level. That was the second thing that impressed me. Well I was in Kumming. This was actually 14th Air Force Headquarters and General Chennault's headquarters, but this is where all of us received our assignments to the different squadrons and groups throughout China and I was assigned right then to the 528th Fighter Squadron of the 311th Fighter Group of the 312th Fighter Wing of the 14th Air Force and was shipped by air to Chentu. C-H-E-N-T-U. Chentu.

Q: Thank you for spelling that. So that was your--

Olin Perritt: This was in North Central China and the amazing thing about that particular base, it was down in a very large valley surrounded on both sides by mountains and at that particular location in the valley there were seven airfields and four of them, I might get three and four mixed up, but let's say four of them had B29 Superfortress and three of them had P51 fighters, the old A models. And that's around the time--

Q: And you were going to fly that P51--

Olin Perritt: Yeah I went to the fighter squad and we were there to protect the air bases for the B29s and to go out in some instances and escort cripples home. I was stationed there for about two months. This was in the winter of '44-'45 and we lived in tents. Didn't even have wooden floors. It was earth. And for heat we slept in our fur-lined flying suits and fur-lined boots. We had a little heater, not so big, and periodically a truck would come into the compound and offload a pile of "coal" and we'd start scrounging around trying to find a lump of coal. The rest was slate, it wouldn't burn, but soft coal would and we would get together in one tent each evening, usually for poker and each one would bring a lump of coal, and (inaudible) to try to take more while we played poker until bedtime. That's the first time I ever drank coffee out of a glass and I understand why. Well they didn't have cups. They didn't have earthenware. And that's the first time I ever heard of a heat sink. Are you familiar with a heat sink? Well I use it many times in my construction work but this time if you poured hot coffee in a glass it would break the glass, but if you put a spoon in it, it wouldn't. It acted as a heat sink. It took the heat off from the coffee to keep from transferring it instantaneously to the glass, which would expand and crack. Heat sink. Well during my stay at Chentu, one of the memorable things is that all of these fields had to have connections for mail and the P51 outfit where I based was the mailman and this old P51 you had the drop tanks but we didn't have any fuel in them. One of them was loaded with mail and the other one was loaded with beer. That's how we cooled our beer. We didn't have ice. And I went out on the mail run one day and it was so foggy that you couldn't see the end of the field and I flew into each of these bases and landed strictly on dead reckoning and my compass had _________ my watch and didn't even know I was over the field until I looked straight down and saw the field, and mostly guys did not figure they were going to get mail that day. It's another expression we (inaudible). When we had weather so bad that we stood down from missions, our favorite was saying the weather's so bad the birds are walking. I still use it. But anyway, when I finally left Chentu, I was moved up to Xian. In those days it was spelled Hsian, pronounced SEE-ON. It's now X-I-A-N and it's called JEE-ON. X on the JEE-ON. [ph?] Anyway, that's where I flew all of my P51 combat missions of railroad sweeps, air ground support, anything we could shoot up.

Q: Now the goal was 100 missions, so you'd go how many?

Olin Perritt: No, no. No. (inaudible)

Q: Oh that's true.

Olin Perritt: I only got 78. I didn't join the Century Club. But we had, well, first thing of all I was assigned to a flight. Each flight, let's say the squadron was composed of 36 planes and I forgot how many pilots, but we had ground personnel. We had armament, medicine, intelligence. Headquarters with personnel and stuff. But anyway, at Xian every time I took off it was a combat mission.

Q: Did you have an assigned plane or just a plane with --

Olin Perritt: No. Not first off. I was scheduled that. My flight leader was Captain Newcomb. Dick Newcomb and shortly after I started getting combat missions I probably had 10 or 12 and I was flying his wing. I was his wingman and that's what you're dependent on, your wingman. I don't recall who was the second element. See everything was a flight full [ph?] combat mission. You had your things and there's a lead and his wingman, the second element and his wingman. Can you do that?

Q: The Spock thing?

Olin Perritt: I can do it with both hands. They'd go like that. Anyway, my grandchildren think I'm pretty fragile [ph?]. But anyway, he had just received his Century Club membership. He had flown his 100 missions and while he was waiting for transport to come home he begged off flying on a mission and he got shot down and was killed, and the squadron commander, I don't know really exactly how it worked, but my flight I probably had as many missions but far more flight experience than anybody else. Many of the guys in my flight I had instructed into space. Not personally but I had been an instructor when they went through flight training. And so I was made the flight leader and I was flight leader as a Second Lieutenant which called for a Captain.

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: And I finally got my first Lieut. in the war, ended before, just as I was to get my Captain's. But anyway, Xian is at the location where they discovered short ways outside of town all of those terra cotta soldiers and horses, and I've been there, when my wife and I went over just before she died, and I visit Xian. We were there for three or four days and it's one of those cities that's surrounded by a massive wall and the wall goes up, like, 40 feet and it's, you know, you can, it's like the Great Wall of China sort of but it goes around the city and there's a north gate, south gate, east gate, west gate, and we came in from the airport which had been built out about 30 miles. We came in by-- they don't like "bus," where they call "motor coaches." I think that's English. "Motor coaches." Anyway, and as we entered the north gate, I reckon that is where I was because that was right outside where the airfield was and sooner or later, as I was there, I asked the guide, the Chinese guide, if the field was still there and he said "Yes, it's been abandoned." Everything was so dictated on this tour that you didn't have time to do anything on your own. But anyway, as we were leaving, after three or four days, and we're on the bus remember and I've always been sort of a joker and I turned to the guide and I said, "Joe, it's been, I think at the time, 50 some years since I was last here." And I said, "You know of this time, of these three or four million people, I don't see a single one that I recognize." And just like that he said, "Well Doctor, I doubt any of them recognize you either." I'll never forget that.

Q: So you didn't make it by the airfield. I thought you were going to say you convinced him to take you over there.

Olin Perritt: Well part of our tour while we were there, this was not our first stop. Our first stop had been Beijing where we went out to the Great Wall. I had on all my clothes, including my long johns. Like it froze, it was wind chill below zero, and I climbed up on the wall but I didn't go very far. But anyway, at Xian, as we were going by motor coach out to the place to see all of these soldiers and horses that had been unearthed, and these were in like a superdome, which was four or five times as large as the one in New Orleans. Tremendous, with no internal support. It's all external support, and this was like in November and it was so cold and they hadn't turned on any heat. We were really cold. But anyway, on the way out we had a lady from Boston who actually conducted the tour. It was managed. I still get things from her. I said, "You know between here and there, just a short ways off is Huaqing Springs." She said, "What's that?" I said, "That was our rest camp. Every 25 missions we had to go there and we were up on the mountainside and these springs, where Chiang Kai-shek had been before the war when he was taking over the nationalists and these were all marble and gorgeous hot springs and you stick it-- no way I'm going to get in that water.

Q: That hot?

Olin Perritt: Yeah. Well by the time you had worked yourself in that water for 15 minutes you didn't want to get out. But it was the greatest soporific type of therapy for those aching bodies that we had, and then when we came out and toweled off, we were last, and we had some fellow from the States came over to teach combat people how to relax. You might try it sometime. It seems that there's a, from a medical standpoint or anatomical, actually physiological, there's a certain amount of tension if your arms are straight and your legs are straight, so we put our pillow under our head, a pillow under our knees, and bend our elbows by having our forearms like this. This had a break in the knees and you just relax like that. After coming out of this hot water, well we spent I think three or four days. The food was good and we didn't do anything but just relax, eat, and take hot baths. Then we'd go back right into the old combat. Well anyway, through my efforts they diverted our tour to Huaqing Spring and everyone on that tour, the 30 odd people, to this day thank me for it because it was a gorgeous place to see.

Q: Is it still being used?

Olin Perritt: Oh yes, it's like Sulfur Springs out of West Virginia. I think that's the name of it. All of this is natural water, as you know, coming out of the mountain hot. They didn't need it. [ph?] And that's where I learned Chinese. I learned to count up to 10.

Q: So how did you find out about the war's end? Did everybody know that it was approaching with the bombing?

Olin Perritt: I can see it vividly. I had my flight out on a railroad sweep over Eastern China. Before we could fly combat out of China, we had to, from memory, draw a semblance of a map that covered the major railroads, and it was almost like a checkerboard. There was North East-West, Middle East-West, and South East-West, and then there was West North-South, and Middle North-South, and East North-South. Now you see the grid?

Q: Sure.

Olin Perritt: It was almost impossible to get lost in that massive North China and not be able to get home for the simple reason that any time you didn't know where you were, you headed Southwest and you figured North, South, East, West, you're going to head North-South and you head South. You go and head East-West, you're going to head West, and when you finally got down to about 85 miles from our base, you follow the railroad all the way to Xian. We had instances, either from a sandstorm, weather that turned sour while you're out and you had to come in, almost on the deck, and have some way to get to the field. Well the railroad track that I'm talking about, we call it from the bend of the Yellow River, right into the railroad station at Xian was outside the wall just north of town and if I can say that's north then this is west. This is the airfield and here's the railroad track going that way to the east. Well what we did was we could come in and at a certain distance out, as the flight leader, I'd give the word and I'd head on down the track and the other three would make a slow 360, two minutes, standard rate turn, and then the second man would come and the other two would do a 360, and then the third man would come and then tail me and Charlie. Well that gave us a two-minute space in which is plenty of time, and you came down the track and when you got to where you could see the train station you looked at the wall. This is that massive wall that circled the city. Not circled it, it was a square, and we went and painted on the wall a big white section and as soon as you saw that you made a turn to fly over it on a compass heading, when you gear down and your flaps down and you came right over that wall and flopped onto the airfield. That's how close the field was to it. That was our instrument landing procedure which now you do all with instruments on your instrument panel. But anyway, we had a large hanger that was pockmarked with bomb shells and the concrete. The Japanese dropped a lot of bombs that drove us out into slit trenches at night. We call them the banana bombs and they would drop a whole bunch of these and they weren't much bigger than a banana. They were really anti-personnel [ph?]. It didn't do much damage. They'd crack a hunk of concrete, just enough to make a bumpy place, and they'd go through the roof. You know why they call them slit trenches? Well they were all in between our barracks and near the airfield. If you had anything going off in the way of an explosion or machine gun bullets, you didn't want to get in a trench that was straight. They zig-zag, and the reason is if you're in a straight one the bullets would go get everybody in those trenches, but if you had the angles, there was a place to stop.

Q: And that's how they were there was the zig-zag?

Olin Perritt: Yeah. Yeah, and if we had an alert, see we didn't have all the radar that the British and the Germans had. We had Chinese and they had a rail line, I mean a phone line, and if the Japanese bombers were taking off of Hancow or somewhere, they would report, and this report would go over a large section bombers taking off. They have it in the report at what duration. Then the second report was they had in a certain direction, compass-wise, from the ground observers around and in the airfield, and this would go to a new section, most likely targets, and then all along the route there were observers. Now they had this in England. You know, the guys, what did they call them? Wardens?

Q: Right.

Olin Perritt: Up on roofs.

Q: Mmm-hmm.

Olin Perritt: This was before radar began, the Battle of Britain, and we didn't have much radar in those days. But they were the air spotters and by phone and they would get to headquarters but would go intercept us. We periodically had to perform interceptive duty where we were either sit in the airplane, the plane's warmed up, or we would be outside the airplane but within few feet, that's why we'd toss a baseball back and forth, or sit under the wing and play Gin Rummy. Or what was that? Pinochle. I learned to play Pinochle. I don't know how to play it anymore. I know they had like eight Aces and they had double everything in pinochle day. [ph?] In fact we even tried to play poker one time on pinochle day and it didn't work.

Q: It didn't work.

Olin Perritt: But anyway, if the observation came that they were within a certain distance then you scrambled. I never had to scramble but a couple times and they never got that far. I had very little in the way of combat as you know it.

Q: With actual attacks.

Olin Perritt: We did, and lost so many of our planes and pilots from ground strength. We did many, trying to knock out communications and supplies, logistics, and that was railroad sweeps shooting up anything that was war material to enhance the Japanese fight against the Chinese. We did so many ground missions which, I hate to say, involved napalm, and I dropped napalm without really observing the effect, because by the time you drop it you have passed your target practically, you know. You don't see it yet, and so you get reports back from ground. All of our ground support was conducted by a ground base. In our case it was called Bulldog. It was the OSS, Office of Strategic Services, which later become the CIA, and I worked with them later on in photo re-combat. Anyway, Bulldog was actually, I think, an office of a couple enlisted men and they drove a jeep, and they moved around but they had all that radio equipment on that jeep and you contacted them when you were out before you got to the target, and they had all kind of directions by radio or ground panels. They'd lay out these panels like sheets, you know, and the arrows hit and say your target is 300 yards off the point of, and that's where we would go and spray things with those 50 calibers and dropping napalm and Japanese soldiers bivouacked in the woods and what have you. We had an occasion where a Bulldog became inactive. They blew the gasket and you had the gasket on the sonar head. Do you even know what I'm talking about? But anyway, they got word back to base that they were immobile and they couldn't move until they replaced the sonar head. You know a jeep was a very simple little 4-cylinder engine. Very simple. Well we had recently obtained at my based a BT13. This was a basic trainer. Low wing, 450 Horse radio in the round end and here my name's number one on the volunteer list. "Hey Lieutenant Perritt, didn't you teach training stuff to students?" I said, "Yeah." "Well we've got a problem. Bulldog ground is way up in this remote area of China and we need to fly him in a gasket for his sonar head for his jeep. Would you like to do the--" "Oh yeah, sure." Well anyway, to make a long story short, they bound its cork. It's about this long and this wide then they bound it within plywood and tape. I don't know whether it had duct tape but there was some kind of a tape, and there was a Corporal or Sergeant that was going to ride in the back seat and he's got this gasket. Well near where I'm to go where Bulldog is. That's their name. There's a dry riverbed, pebble beach kind of thing, and that's where I'm going to land to transfer Corp. Well here I am now, I'm not in a P51 at 350 mph, cruise on and a BT is 150 mile an hour cruise and it takes a while you know and I've got to watch my fuel supply. Well when I get there and I flew in dead reckoning and no highway row. It's a most desert form of north China, and I spot the place. Well I'm talking to him on the radio and they say, "Enemy on the opposite side of the river." Well first of all I've got to find some way to tell which way the wind's blowing and are you going to land in the wind? It's that much slower when you touch down. I'm coming in on the riverbed into the wind, flaps down, slow as I can get, and I'm just about to touch down, and this is a hazard in itself. They should have never even thought about me trying to land in this riverbed.

Q: Yeah, the pebbles or the uneven ground.

Olin Perritt: Well they're small pebbles. There are no big rocks. Most trainers you never flew close to the ground in traffic pattern where the camp is closed. They're always open, and the reasons for that, you know. If you ever flipped over you'd get trapped if the canopy was closed. Well just about the time I'm starting to level off I happen to glance. Now here's a Bulldog over in the woods and over here is the Japanese and just as I'm starting to level off I happen to glance and all I see are these little fireflies, these little red fireflies. I mean from about 300 yards, that's enemy rifle fire, machine guns. Well to make a long story short I--

Q: Aborted.

Olin Perritt: Full throttle and I zipped right over the woods to get away and I told Bulldog that I thought it was extremely hazardous and that we would drop during the air drop. So I came back around and again, I got a little bit closer to this way then and some water but there was still a sand bog and I told the guy in the back, "Now when I give you the word, throw it out," and I got as slow as I could, you know, still trying to keep control and he threw it out and as I peeled off, you know, and gave it the throttle, pulled my flaps up, and I see this guy running out across the sand to retreat. Anyway, we got them back in business and this was about halfway through my combat flight time, so. I'll never forget that. There were two radio calls I'll never forget. One was Bulldog, which was our ground support, the air ground support, and the other was Hotel, which was the code name for our homing, so if you ever actually got to where you didn't know where you were or how to get home, you called on the radio for homing and their code name was Hotel. It was good, you know. You'd go and get home and what he did, this was usually a truck that had this beam monitor that they could turn. It was a big loop, and he would have you transmit for a fix and you could whistle or hum or sing, long as you continue transmitting, and he would turn this loop until he got a null. It's all radio stuff, you know, and then he would read a bearing which the reciprocal of from him to you, but you want to go from you to him, so he would give you a bearing. Now every so often you would transmit again because this didn't create many crosswind and the crosswind throw you off, and I never used that but once and that was one of those days when you couldn't see, you could see straight down. Unless you went straight over the field, you'd never find it, and so I transmitted for Hotel.

Q: We need to--

Olin Perritt: You need to shorten this talk.

Q: So you're flying your missions and the war is coming to an end.

Olin Perritt: Oh you wanted to ask me--

Q: But how did you know that about the--

Olin Perritt: I had been out on this railroad sweep on this east, North Southeast China. Now that maybe showed before we even got into combat from home base, we're about 800 miles from home. That's a long ways.

Q: It is.

Olin Perritt: That's why the P51s were so good. We could carry the combat drop tanks, and I had taken off on my flight before daylight and it was, by this time, 11:30 or 12:00. We had been on a seven-hour mission. I was bone tired and it was hot. It was August, if you recall, and when I landed, landed my crew and I taxied up and shut down and my crew chief climbed up on the wing and he says, "It looks like maybe the war is going to be at an end very quickly. They dropped an atomic bomb." I looked at him and I said, "Atomic bomb? What kind of bomb is an atomic bomb?" Well none of us knew what atoms were, unless you maybe had some high school chemistry or college chemistry. But we found our very quickly. Now the war ended pretty soon, but anyway we seized hostile action but we still sent out patrols and I got, I think, two more combat missions from patrol over the Japanese areas. It was one of our new replacement pilot, and he was with one of the older seasoned veterans and they had gone out on one of these patrols two or three days after the war. We had stopped hostilities but they hadn't signed the end of the war, and he flew over a Japanese airfield and there was a big sign out on the end of the runway, "Clear to land." Some message that it was safe to land. Well he should've not done it, but anyway he did, the Captain, and as he landed and rode out at the end of the runway and turned, his wingman, this new pilot, had tightened up his turn from his base leg to approach and stalled out his front end and when he hit, of course, he exploded and burned. Anyway, the leader felt he had been shot down, that this was a trap, so he turned and took off downwind and got back to base. He was severely ostracized, criticized, condemned for his actions. Under the circumstances, I think, you know, everything was so tense, I probably would've done the same thing.

Q: Now you said that after the war you stayed on in China, right?

Olin Perritt: Yes, that was another mistake and I wouldn't want, well she's not around anymore. I was engaged to be married and our marriage was predicated on my getting home alive. The door closed on my promotion.

Q: At the end of the war.

Olin Perritt: In China. I had been performing the duties, the job, of a Captain for quite a while, and as soon as the war ended, every promotion was frozen and I was up. My promotion was frozen. The head of intelligence that I had worked with, OSS, who's dead and gone now but he later became a very good friend, and his wife was an attorney. She was one at the Nuremberg war trials and she's still going to our reunions. He died a couple of years ago. They were Pensacola. Jim Sargent was his name. Well he and my group commander took my case personally and in order to try to get my promotion unfrozen, sent me at Shanghai, we had moved into Shanghai, troops of occupation, up to the 14th Air Force headquarters to become the Aide d'Camp to the Air Force General, General Stratemeier [ph] is the name comes back. He had superceded. Is that a proper term? Yeah, succeeded Chennault, and the job called for Captain, and this is my second or third Catch 22, if you know this. I didn't get the job because I wasn't a Captain, but they were trying to get me the job so I could get my Captaincy. Well anyway this delayed my coming home from the end of the war until December, which was about three months. I had stayed over and I was still flying. I had still been active in the squadron in the hopes to come home to get married with two stripes on my shoulder. Anyway, it didn't work out. I never told my bride that. I think maybe John knows. It's not something that I advertise family-wise, because I could've probably been one of the very first people to come home when the war ended because of all the time I had in service and in combat and all the other things. They had a point system and I probably had more points than anybody in my squadron, including the Commander. Could've flown home. I actually came home with the squadron. It was deactivated. We came home on a big troop ship out of Shanghai. I think I told you about that.

Q: A little bit.

Olin Perritt: Yeah. We skirted a Pacific typhoon for 17 days. Everybody was seasick.

Q: Right, you did tell us about it.

Olin Perritt: And we were supposed to go into San Francisco but the reason we were skirting northerly around this typhoon, we went into Seattle. In my case it was very fortunate because these people had not seen Air Force and they treated us very well. They didn't have room for us at Fort Lewis so we stayed on the ship at the dock. Actually we were all in the Pacific during Christmas '45, and we spent New Years Eve on the ship at the dock, and we didn't get out for several days because the railroad strike. Coal. [ph?] And we finally got out at midnight one night. They put us on some old Pullman cars and there was no heat, and this is in January, and so we sleep in the sleeper, and everything we got on to stay warm, and in the middle of these troop, this is a troop train, we're coming in to Fort Bragg now, all the way from Seattle, Washington, and in the middle of the train they've got an old railway express car that was set up as a dining car, where you went with your best kit [ph?] and stood up and then went back to your Pullman. Anyway, we came the northern route through the Cascades and Wyoming and Montana, into Chicago, and then on over into Washington and then there was days Atlantic coastline down through, and I got into Fayetteville and took us five days to come to cross country. And then when we got off the train at Fort Bragg, I got on a train from Fayetteville back to Rocky Mount, and it was a night train. And I would hear the cars in Smithfield or Benson. In fact, I was sitting talking to the conductor and the brakeman. All of a sudden they tensed up and I, I didn't know what was going on. They felt the emergency brake come on. I didn't feel a thing. You know, I'm fat, dumb, and happy. But anyway, this elderly gentleman in the town had gotten caught between the rails and he couldn't get the car to move so he got out and the train hit him broadside, hit the car. It peeled. You remember the cowcatchers on (inaudible)?

Q: Yeah, yeah.

Olin Perritt: It peeled them back against the guide wheels. Those first trucks were guide wheels. Well the car ahead of the car I was in were filled with, I hate to say they were, but they were Black troops, and we all got out, you know. What's all the commotion about? And we walked up to the locomotive and not far back, maybe 50 yards, was one of these shacks alongside the railroad track where working store equipment, and I don't know, I guess the brakeman went on the engineer or the fireman, somebody had a key and they got some kind of tools and they just took that cowcatcher clean off and took all of it. That's thing's ornerier than steel, and they threw it aside, and I can hear that conductor to himself, he says, "Lord help us if we hit another car." Because see the conductor, the cowcatcher, was to kick bulls and cows off the way it works. It's like a snowplow, and without that anything else you hit's going to roll right under the train. But anyway, we got into Rocky Mount about 4:30, quarter to 5:00. I didn't think I ever was going to get home, and I called my dad and he came down to the station to get me. I didn't want to wake up my future bride. My wife went to Meridith College. We graduated from high school together and she went to college when I went in the military, so when I got home from the war she had finished college and was working then, a little place. Anyway.

Q: But you had said that you had goals of remaining in the military.

Olin Perritt: Yes, I was trying to stay in. I finally gave up for two reasons: number 1, again, I got caught in something I didn't want. They assigned me, ordered me, to troop carrier school at Pope Field in Fayetteville. I'm a fighter pilot and I want to go into jet transitions, you know. We've got jets coming in, and there I am flying a goony bird, the C47s, towing gliders and carrying 82nd Airborne Paratroopers, training. That was one thing. And the second thing was of all of the men that stayed in the service that were stationed at Pope Field, those of us that applied for career officers, they only accepted two and they both had a college degrees and I was a high school graduate. I had no chance. So I petitioned for a three-day pass and went to Chapel Hill and talked to the Dean of Admissions and he said, "Yeah, we'll take you with your record and your transcript." They had come out with a posted order from the headquarters at my base due to the effect that so many elected to stay in and they didn't have a need for them. Everything had been deactivated, equipment destroyed. Those that would like to be separated. Officers were not discharged, they were separated. Can put in their papers and remain in reserve and go back to civilian life. So that's what I was after, and I had hoped to get out in time to start summer school at Chapel Hill. That's 4:00-6:00, but the papers didn't go through quick enough so I started in September in the fall return in '46.

Q: But you still carry this love of flying with you, so you went to all of this medical training, your career in medicine, but you still kept aviation alive. Now you said that your wife had said that medicine was just an interlude for you?

Olin Perritt: Yes and no. When we would go home from Chapel Hill for the weekend and some of the holidays, it seemed like I could practically always manage someone to sneak out to the airport and fly around a little bit, and I took some people, you know, but brought along my wife, my dad, my brother. In light planes, you know. Kept my hand in. I still had my license. The full run of the FAA was a CAA. Instead of the Federal Aviation, they just said was a Civilian Aviation, and I received in 1946 a commercial pilot's license civilian, and all I had to do was take a written test of 20 true or false questions, and you say how in the world are you going to do that, when you take a pilot's life, they go through months and years and dual training. It was all on the basis of military competency. Anyone that went through the Army or Navy flight training and received their commission and wings, ours were silver and navy, and gold, could apply for an FAA, CAA in those days, commercial license, which I have to this day, and the only thing you had to do as years went by to maintain it, keep it in force, was a medical, which in my case was required every two years, and I went through medical school and some of the house parties that my wife and I were chaperoning, like in Nags Head, and we'd end up over at the maneto and rent a plane. I was a pilot and they would all want to go flying around the beats. I was delighted. It didn't cost me anything and I'd get to fly. But this fiasco, I think, with the Pennsylvania International Guard and I was just too busy, so I had a fairly wide hiatus of flying from medical school until I finished my residency and came back to Wilmington, and that's another short story. We had two children in Philadelphia. I've got two Yankee kids, and I had nothing in the way of life insurance other than what I had had in the military, and we were all limited to $10,000, which was a lot of money in those days, and I still had that, but in order to protect my wife and first two kids and pretty soon the third one was on the way, I took out a large block of straight life insurance and one of the questions that was so forcefully put to me was my flying. They didn't want to insure me if I continue flying. "Are you still flying?" "No." "Do you intend to fly?" "No." So then I say, "Well how long do these two statements that I just answered good for?" and they said, "Statute of limitations would be two years." I said, "In other words, after two years, whatever I said I had no intentions at that time, I changed my mind." They said, "You'll clear." So I waited two years, then when those two years were up I showed up at the airport and in those days there was Pennington's Flying Service and that was Stenny and Pappy Warren and Jack Bennett, who's an instructor, and he was in the family somehow.

Q: And were they out at the airfield or were they (inaudible)

Olin Perritt: No this is--

Q: They were at the IOM.

Olin Perritt: The IOM now, but they had Pennington's Flying Services where aeronautics was. They had torn all that down now. Bill Cherry with Air Wilmington. I went out on a Friday and Jack checked me out on the J3 Piper Cub. I went out on a Saturday and Skinny checked me out and the crew so I went out on Sunday, this is one weekend, and Pappy checked me out on the tri-post. That's when Pipers were all fabric covered and I can remember we are on the downwind leg getting ready to turn base and he's in the right seat, and I say, "Well Pappy, how does it glide when the power's off?" He says, "Like a hammer." Some people say like a lead brick. Five minutes.

Q: We're just getting to the good part.

Olin Perritt: But anyway, I didn't really get back to flying too much until about 1960. When I purchased my first airplane with Dr. Tom Neeham, who you may know is a veterinarian.

Q: Right, Dr. Needham.

Olin Perritt: He has retired. We owned an antique aircraft. It was a dark 1938 manufacture and I flew that for a couple years, during which I started building my first home build.

Q: In around 1960?

Olin Perritt: We bought the plane in '60 and I started building the mini-plane in '60, which I finished in '63, and I think we sold the Dart in '62 or '63. I've been at it ever since, either store-bought or home-built, and at one time I had a glass star, which I had built. I had it for sale. I had the RV almost finished ready for the FAA to inspect it for flying, and I had the kit available for the third one. What do they say about family? "Two on the ramp and one in the hanger." Or "one in the oven." I didn't go with all those clichés.

Q: So you have built six planes or you're working on your sixth?

Olin Perritt: I'm working on six.

Q: Six. Can you briefly describe what kind of planes they are? Have they all been the same?

Olin Perritt: I can show you pictures.

Q: You have three minutes.

Olin Perritt: Okay, the first one was a little small single place open cockpit bi-plane.

Q: Oh, a bi-plane, okay.

Olin Perritt: And that plane was put on a trailer which we decorated, the New Hanover Pilots Association. It's long since defunct, and it was in the Azalea Parade, and I have pictures of it. A lot of people thought it was a model. That was my first one. The second one was a bigger bi-plane, it was two place open cockpit, fully aerobatic. It's in England. And the third was a small motorglider. It was really a single plane that had no motor on it. Probably had most fun with that of all, and John flew that the first time.

Q: Really?

Olin Perritt: Yeah. I was on the ground talking to him on a radio. The fourth one was the Glass Star, which is out on the West Coast now, and the fifth one was the RV6 that I'm flying now, and the Glass Air, which is kitted by the same company that I bought the Glass Star from, is one out of the high-ended [ph?] workshop, and if I keep my health, you know, keep working, I hope I'm going to fly that in a couple years. I just bought my engine. Once you buy an engine you're pretty sure you're going to finish the plane.

Q: How long does it take you then? About 2-3 years to build?

Olin Perritt: The first one took me a little over 3, the second one 2, the third one a year. They were less complex.

Q: That was that glider?

Olin Perritt: And the first two were not kit-build. They were plans-build. You buy the plans and you start scrounging. Home-build is the greatest scroungers in the world, but I have, with my last three or four, maybe I might scrounge for stuff to assemble to put things together initially, but the final put-together is with purchased aircraft-grade new. You know, you can use hardware bolts to hang something on just to see how it looks, but when you'd want to fly it you don't want aircraft [sic] bolts. You want aircraft bolts.

Q: Right, you don't want to break off.

Olin Perritt: Well you don't want anything to go wrong, but you have a far better chance with the aviation-type stuff.

Q: Because before you fly they have to be inspected?

Olin Perritt: That's right. The first plane I built, the inspector came like every three months, FAA. In subsequent years they, of course, I guess during Reagan's time they downed so much of the budget for the FAA that they had far fewer inspectors and the safety record for home-builds became better than anything else. So they had what they call a technical counselor's program. In each chapter of the FAA you have one or more technical counselors, and we have two. I could've been one. I had more experience than anybody else but I didn't want to take the responsibility. But anyway, periodically they'd come and check and fill out and the FAA only comes for your last inspection before you fly. The plane's supposed to be ready to fly.

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